Is there a soundtrack to the soul? The mere location and identity of the soul is itself a subject of perennial pop-scientific and specious philosophical musing; to the extent that an objective concept exists, it’s considered an ethereal construct, well beyond the analytical constructs of post-enlightenment discourse. Yet, like pornography and art, the soul is there when you know it. And the soul is everywhere on Roller One’s new album, Beautiful Fountain.
Take, for instance, the opening track, All the Windows in this Town Are Closed: using Roller One’s bare-bones acoustic folk-country-psych musical aesthetic, Fergus McAlpin casts his eye across a deserted country town and imagines what lies behind closed doors and beyond the dead end streets; the town becomes the metaphor for his inner emotions, and what lies within.
I Saw Her There is heartfelt: an image of beauty, a moment of happiness, a sense of wonder; in a world of cheap social media commentary, this is as real as it gets. Sea of Mundane tempers the good with the bad; behind the facade lies the harshness of reality. It’s sparse and almost brutal: drugs, despair and tragedy. The dark atmosphere rolls in quietly like an encroaching storm; the bleakness never breaks, yet by the end there’s a sense of resignation that the dye has been set.
Shadow loiters in the corner, watching and waiting; the occasional shard of slide guitar floats across the room, like memories of a happier time. Fix Myself a Drink is the obvious response: “turn the lights down/and put on a record”, and pour yourself a drink to drown away the sorrow.
On Hank, the ghost of Hank Williams – or maybe any old Hank who’s got something to contribute – swans into town, the song’s stripped country-folk feel providing ample space for reflection. My Friend Complication is as you’d expect it to be: it’s a labyrinth of mixed emotions, a maze of cerebral confusion. The subtle orchestration is haunting, and dangerously so.
On August Breeze the mood clears; it’s Don Walker sitting in a country pub staring through the bottom of a pot of draught, realising that within sadness lies the key to salvation. Swing Those Keys evokes a literary aesthetic: Gram Parsons stumbling into the plot of Wake In Fright and trying to make a fist of a difficult situation.
Falling Tower is architectural metaphor writ large: towers of character are toppling, and the scene isn’t quite as impressive as you might have thought. The tempo skips up, and hope shines; violin enters the fray, and melancholy burns bright. Finally, there’s Someone Like You, and love is in the air, in all its fascinating glory. We ride out across an ocean of hope, fiscally challenged and romantically excited.
Roller One is a band that explores and touches the soul of human existence. You can’t make this shit up: it comes from the human soul, wherever, and whatever that is.
BY PATRICK EMERY
Best Track: Sea of Mundane
If You Like These, You’ll Like This: FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS, GRAM PARSONS, HANK WILLIAMS, GEORGE JONES
In A Word: Beautiful